Everybody’s talking about it and everybody’s doing it, or at least that’s how it looks, and not just in the West. Gone are the days of not kissing on the first date and saving sex ‘til marriage. We are now living in a day and age where we find ourselves in a fast paced society, where absolutely anything goes.

Less thought goes into the consequences of one’s actions but instead there is the mind-set that so long as you’re not hurting anyone you should be able to do what makes you happy. The problem with this thought process is when you cross the line of doing what makes you happy but at the indirect expense of someone else’s happiness. So, what do I mean by that?

On a broad scale, quite simply I’m referring to prostitution. When a man purchases the sexual services of another, he’s fulfilled and happy, but the same realistically cannot be said for the prostitute. Having personally visited the Red Light District in parts of Asia and engaged in conversation with foreign men in the Philippines, there are some deluded individuals who think they are helping the women.

Red light District
Photo credit: Jonathan Taylor

They have honestly convinced themselves that exchanging sex for money puts food on the table and a roof over these prostitutes heads, which in a way it does, but whilst also putting them at risk of contracting STDs or becoming pregnant. Instead a more appropriate alternative would be a no-strings attached financial gift, payment towards an education etc.

From my experience having worked with victims and survivors of the sex industry, they do not choose to be there. In fact, they are often there because of a lack of choice. These men and women are talented actors and actresses in my opinion who have no choice but to lie so that the customer can get the full experience.

But is it really an experience? When we use a term like customer this makes it sound more transactional. That the man is purchasing a service or product. The reality however, can not be shrouded in pretty terms because prostitution is not a job. Prostitution is paid rape and the customer is a rapist.

The difficulty with making such a bold statement is when we consider escorts services, former websites like BackPage, or now OnlyFans. The latter of which has been deemed as a means of female empowerment where content creators charge subscribers for access to their photos and videos. The fact that there is a minimum age of 18 and identification is required to subscribe to the site makes one wonder what was the original purpose of this platform.

The same question can be raised when considering the design of Snapchat that has images disappear within seconds of appearing. Then there is the Silhouette Challenge on TikTok where females dance provocatively semi naked or naked behind a red screen. OnlyFans and the Silhouette Challenge are cloaked under the umbrella of women empowerment, where women and girls are taking back control of their bodies, but all whilst displaying them sexually for the attention of men.

With magazines like Teen Vogue educating readers on staying safe while sexting, and “Ask Me Anything” YouTube channels aimed at teens, it is evident to those at least in the anti-trafficking world that society is normalizing sex on screen and not just in movies. 50 Shades of Grey promoted BDSM, whilst Game of Thrones promoted pornography. Most people are unwilling to wrap their heads around this, but extensive studies and research has been done by organisations like the National Centre on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE).

Amazon, YouTube, Cosmopolitan magazine all promote pornography, as does Netflix shows like Hot Girls Wanted, or movies like Hustlers.

Having volunteered with NCOSE at their D.C. headquarters and their Global Summit I listened to academics and scholars talk about the harmful effects of pornography consumption. This is notwithstanding the fact that pornography is often not a victimless crime particularly when we think about child pornography and human trafficking. It’s all about supply, demand and content.

The common misconception is that adult film stars love for sex is what entices them into the pornography industry. The reality is much less sexy, because the likelihood is that they were victimised sexually at some point in their life, often during their childhood. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) refers to any traumatic experience in a person’s childhood such as abuse. Statistics in the U.S. reveal that at least 1 in 3 females have experienced sexual abuse at some time in their lives.

The effect of repeated childhood sexual abuse can sometimes leave the individual believing that their value is in giving their body sexually, and when we relate this to their existence in the sex industry it is often viewed by them as empowerment because what was taken for free now has a price tag attached. Such men and women are victims.

Organisations like Fight The New Drug, with the #PornKillsLove aim to educate the public on the harmful effects of pornography. They do this through the use of science, facts and real life stories from former addicts and former porn stars. The latter of which speak candidly about being forced to comprise and engage in things they were not comfortable with, the “preparation” they would undergo before shooting a movie, and the harmful physical effects it had on their body.

Pornography is destructive to participants and viewers alike. Men and boys are struggling to relate to females sexually because of their inability to separate pornography from reality, and their desire to emulate what they see on the screen. Videos are becoming increasingly more degrading in nature where the women are hit, strangled, raped and spat on. Websites like Pornhub have not been appropriately verifying videos and consequently illegal content involving unconscious females or children have been uploaded.

Consumers want each new video to push the bar, where their wildest fantasies are portrayed on screen. It is not all an act however, because when the female is being suffocated, she is crying real tears and is not enjoying herself. When the cameras stop rolling some of these women have reported having STDs and not in their genital area but their eyes. This makes you wonder if this is really just the hazard of the job?

Marriages have been destroyed because of a husband’s pornography addiction. Not only because of unreasonable sexual expectations, a lack of sexual interest in their spouse, but also the financial impact.

This however, is not just a male problem because women and girls are also consuming pornography, some of whom want to emulate what they see by being raped by their boyfriend. It has even been reported as a problem that exists in the church with some pastors struggling with this addiction. Clearly, no one is immune from the grip of pornography once they become entangled.

Even more worrying are studies that have revealed boys as young as 10 are addicted to pornography. They likely stumbled upon it innocently but develop an appetite for it which eventually spirals out of control. One of the major problems that arise with excessive pornography consumption is that it can lead to erectile-dysfunction. The reality is, when men and boys watch pornography they are self servicing aka masturbating. In relationships it becomes a problem where they don’t need the “assistance” of their partner to be satisfied sexually but all they need is their hand and an electronic device. On the other hand (no pun intended), they lack the inability to become aroused by real-life sexual interactions. The result is either fantasizing during sex or watching a video before having sex. If all else fails they’ll need the help of Viagra.

Now, help is available and not in the shape of a pill. However, it starts with acknowledging that you have a problem, sincerely wanting to change and taking the practical steps towards freedom. It serves no purpose being in denial about the extent of the problem, nor is there any reason to be ashamed.

Pornography is known to be debilitating. In fact, I’ve read books where men opened up about being unable to function at work without having consumed pornography. More disappointingly, I know an English judge personally who lost his job after being caught watching pornography in the court house.

Pornography addiction is a real problem. One great resource is Covenant Eyes that monitors your activity and sends a report to someone your accountable too, it also has a feature to block pornography and inappropriate search results. There are also apps like REMOJO – Quit Porn For Good that can help you get back control of your life. You may also want to consider getting counselling to help you work through your addiction and any past trauma.

One final word of advice, don’t be hard on yourself if you slip up. You’re human so that is to be expected, instead, take each day as it comes and focus on your successes.

Juanita M. Headley
Author: Juanita M. Headley

Juanita Headley is an internationally recognized anti-human trafficking speaker, TEDTalk speaker, author, and licensed New York attorney. As a humanitarian volunteer, she has a wealth of experience gained from living amongst and serving the formerly incarcerated and indigent communities. Through the art of storytelling, Juanita simplistically explains child abuse and commercial exploitation in an engaging and informative way, leaving audiences educated, empowered, and inspired


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